Reviews

Dynamic Duo Squared: "Batman-Superman #8"

James Orbesen

The latest ongoing team-up book for Batman and Superman, helmed by Greg Pak, continues a tradition of grand storytelling, albeit in a much smaller universe.


Batman/Superman #8

Publisher: DC Comics
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Greg Pak, Jae Lee
Publication Date: 2014-05
Amazon

Although the Dynamic Duo will always be Batman and Robin, it is through the juxtaposition of Batman and Superman that some of superhero comics’ best stories were born. From the classic World’s Finest tales, featuring a grinning pair partaking in a game of baseball (or, on occasion, tennis) to Frank Miller’s dour, now drained of edge showdown at the end of The Dark Knight Returns, Batman and Superman, together, have defined most of the elements of classic comicbook storytelling for over 70 years.

The latest ongoing team-up book for the two, Batman/Superman, helmed by Greg Pak, continues this tradition, albeit in a much smaller universe. Ever since DC’s New 52 initiative, there’s been a definite contraction in the size and scope of the DCU. The timescale has been compressed, origins have changed, and characters, many characters, have disappeared or been waiting in the wings for their inevitable reintroduction.

I consider that move unfortunate, even after several years of developments. Unlike the New 52’s imitation of Marvel’s sleekness and modernity, DC’s strength had always been its bulkiness, its clumsiness, and its sheer charm and range that are packaged in an overlapping history filled with multiple Earths and successor heroes. Despite this shrinking of DC’s sandbox, Batman/Superman #8 by Pak and artist Jae Lee still embraces the texture, breadth, and versatility of a seemingly pre-New 52 universe.

This issue is actually a team-up within a team-up book, layering Huntress and Power Girl’s relationship on top of Batman and Superman’s. It’s the first installment in a story arc that already seems highly promising. Partly this is due to Pak’s storytelling, which is sharp, playful, and strikes that ooey-gooey balance between the maturity and levity. It’s paced well and, thankfully, doesn’t spell everything out for the reader. You get the dynamics and Pak trusts you to pick up the pieces as you go.

However, Jae Lee’s work is exceptional, which seems to be faint praise considering the sheer splendor and vibe of his art. While most DC books seem to be settling into a bland, inoffensive “house style,” Lee shatters the mold, bringing echoes of early oeuvre Tim Burton meets Dave McKean. It is dark whimsy, something sinister shadowing a familiar face, which seems totally out of place in a title featuring two of DC’s biggest properties in the cross-pollinated media field that is modern superhero comics.

But it isn’t.

And it’s great.

Something about Batman/Superman feels like a time capsule. Although it features two of the most widely known superheroes out there, it doesn’t have the feel of a tent pole book. DC doesn’t seem to be hinging anything on the success, or failure, of this book. And that lack of control, that willingness to allow a creative team to carve out their own niche, is what contributes to this series’, and this issue’s, success.

It reminds me of the time around another 52, but this time, near the conclusion of that weekly series, a time when a series of stellar runs were underway (Geoff Johns’ on Green Lantern, Grant Morrison on Batman, to name a few). Those runs relied on the rich tapestry that was the DC Universe’s history. That attention to its unwieldiness, the urge to toy with, tamper, but, almost, always respect, what had come before gave those books a certain flair altogether unique that made them books published by DC Comics.

Pak and Lee are just getting started. While the story crosses over with, not wholly coincidentally, World’s Finest #20, I’m ready to line up for another helping of the duo’s work. And another. And another. They’re a team-up DC needs more of.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image